Rainbow Trout

Wading the Lower Sac

The Lower Sac is one of those rivers with ungodly numbers of trout per mile.  On a good day, it can be nearly non-stop.  The fish that come out of the upper stretches of the river can get huge too!  The guide I go with has landed three rainbows over 25 inches this year.  All healthy fish with big shoulders.  To make it even more fun, the fish fight hard and know how to use the river flows to their advantage.  They also eat small bugs, so they're not easy to keep on the line. They're truly amazing trout.  

The few times I've fished this river in the past, it's been from a drift boat.  Although a drift boat isn't mandatory, it sure makes access easier.  It can be an intimidating river on foot.  This last weekend, I spent two days up in the Redding area fishing on my own.  Since the steelhead rivers were blown out, I took some advice from one of the guys at The Fly Shop and decided to wade fish some sections near Redding.  

Upon approaching the river, I wasn't exactly sure where to start.  You know that feeling when you have an insurmountable about of work on your desk, or a filthy house to clean?  Yeah, that's the feeling.   With a little trepidation, I stepped into the river and started throwing drifts in likely holding spots.  For some reason I wasn't riding high with confidence about the approach I was taking, but I stuck with it anyways.  About 15 minutes into the session, a big (probably just over average for the Lower Sac) rainbow came up and took a look at the dry fly floating over it's head.  Just as it was about to take the fly, it quickly retreated to the depths of the run.  With that, I knew I was doing something right and my confidence started to move in the right direction.  A few minutes later, I was hooked up.  Unfortunately, this fish ran left, then right and snapped my 5x within a few seconds.  With a huge smile, I kept working the run, knowing I was going to get a good one eventually.   

Just then, bugs started coming off the river in earnest.  It was time!  With a nice long drift, right on the edge of a current seam, a solid fish crushed my dry fly and started running down stream.  Wading in the fast current made it difficult to control where the fish was going without breaking off again.  Eventually, I was able to get it into some softer water to land it.  From there, the flood gates opened and I had a good series of fish that owned me and few more that came to rest in my net.  After a several hours of wading in some serious current and landing a solid number of strong wild fish, I made my way to the bank.  Once back at the car, I realized it was only 1:00.  With Christmas a day away, I reluctantly unlaced the wader boots and packed up for home.  I'm regretting the decision to leave early, just a little...   

Why I Fish...

Fishing, at times, can provide a real challenge.  As the old saying goes, "Thats why they call it fishing and not catching."  When I first started fly fishing, catching large numbers of fish was my main quest.  I wanted to get on the pond or creek and catch as many fish as possible.  I'd count each and every one of the fish I landed, backtracking to make sure my count was accurate.  As I've grown into the sport, the pursuit of a 30+ fish day isn't as much a draw for me anymore. 

Lately I've been much more intrigued with finding big fish or fishing tricky water filled with picky trout.  A few of my favorite Northern California spots can be just that.  Last weekend, I spent two days trying to get into some larger lake run fish that use this river as important spawning habitat.  With a good gravel bottom, deep pools, and dark undercuts, there's a lot of room for big fish to hide and create the next generation.  

This time of year, there are usually a good number of trout in the river.   However, timing can be a big part of the puzzle.   Although I fished hard for two days using a variety of small, winter fly patterns, there either weren't a lot of fish in the system or the cold front had turned them off.  Not to mention, the relatively low water levels accompanied by clear water conditions made sneaking up on good sized fish even more difficult.  

The challenge of finding big fish and getting them to fall for feathers wrapped around a hook is a huge draw for me.  A big enough draw to keep me on a river from sun up to sun down with temperatures as low as six degrees. 

Although I didn't land the big fish I was hunting for last weekend, I did have an encounter.  An encounter was good enough to keep me coming back for more.  My flies drifted with the current on the opposite side of the river, right near the undercut bank.  Then, thump, I was hooked up!  The fish instantly moved up stream with authority, almost as though he didn't know he was hooked.  With a little side pressure applied, he exploded on the surface of the river, then went straight to the bottom and gave a few weighty head shakes. Before long, my size 18 came spitting back across the river.  As soon as it had begun, it was over. 

As is usually the case, the fight had me both excited and disappointed.  I had found a good fish and convinced it to humor me, but in all honesty, I got whooped. That encounter was fuel for the fire though.  It kept me out past dark, hands frozen and nose running in the bitter cold.  It's times like these. Times when I come close but don't fully feel the satisfaction of landing the big one that makes me love fishing so much.  The challenge, the chess match, and the puzzle keep me engaged and wanting more.